What the Archive Cannot Hold: Violence, Dispossession, and the Writing of Post-Ottoman Art Histories

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

5:00 pm

Encina Hall West, Room 219 Map

Sponsored by:
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Department of Anthropology

Mapping different registers of loss, this presentation focuses on the errant itineraries of dispossessed and ‘lost’ artworks from the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic. Some of these artworks have been looted during episodes of state violence; others have been written out of art history or have been destroyed. Others still have been made ‘unrecognizable’ by way of missing provenance (that is the biography of an art object), or – connectedly – misattribution.

The talk contextualizes these registers of loss within the histories of different kinds of symbolic, material and economic dispossession that that brought modern Turkey into being, beginning with the Armenian Genocide. Examining dispossessed art at the complex intersection of aesthetics, material politics, the art market, knowledge production, heritage regimes, property and the law, it aims to explore what historical justice might come to mean beyond the restitution of individual artworks. Bydelving into the impasses of ethnographic and archival inquiries into ‘lost’ art, the talk seeks to contemplate how the material conditions of forgetting – in form of the “present absence” of dispossessed art –have been continually reproduced through art historical narratives and archival practices that are unable to capture the experiences of art and people lost, displaced and dispossessed by violence.In doing so, it shows how the writing of art history in “the national key” not merely erases the memory of non-Muslim artists, collectors and audiences but reinvests into the politics of dispossession.

Banu Karaca is an anthropologist working at the intersection of political anthropology and critical theory, art and aesthetics, nationalism and cultural policy, museums and feminist memory studies. She holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and is currently a Mercator-IPC Fellow at Sabanci University, Istanbul. Her recent publications interrogate freedom of expression in the arts, the visualization of gendered memories of war and political violence, and visual literacy. Her manuscript The National Frame: State Violence and Aesthetic Practice in Turkey and Germanyanalyzes the entrenchment of art in state violence, and she is co-editor of Women Mobilizing Memory: Arts of Intervention(forthcoming, Columbia University Press). She is the co-founder of Siyah Bant, a research platform that documents censorship in the arts in Turkey. She has been Visiting Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Sabanci University and a Faculty Fellow at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference and held fellowships in the Art Histories and Aesthetics and Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Europe Research Programs at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin.

This event is part of the Abbasi Program’s Modern Turkey Encounters series to foster new approaches to contemporary Turkey through academic talks, book discussions, film-screening and recitals.  Sign up to the mailing list for future event announcements here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Encina Hall West, Room 219 Map

Free and Open to the Public


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